Your spouse wants a divorce – what now? 


date published

4th April 2021

written by

Emma Heptonstall Image

date published

4th April 2021

Your spouse wants a divorce – what now? 

Divorce is stressful enough when it’s you instigating it. But if it’s your partner who wants a divorce a whole other load of stress piles on too. In Your spouse wants a divorce – what now?  we get into how to handle the stress of your partner wanting a divorce. So your partner wants a divorce. What now? 

Take a breath

The first thing I urge you to do is breathe. And I mean this literally and metaphorically! When we receive difficult news, or get panicked, our breathing becomes fast and shallow. So focus on taking slower, deeper breaths. It will help you think more clearly and stay grounded.

When I say take a breath I also mean pause before reacting. This is so hard to do, especially if the news came out of the blue like your spouse wants a divorce. You might feel like you’ve been punched in the gut. It’s easy to want to hit back. To hurt, especially if you’re hurting.

But don’t get caught up in that instinctive reaction. Try to collect yourself. Don’t fire back with insults or a litany of what they’ve done wrong. Your sole focus needs to be on you right now. 

If you’re reading this after you’ve already reacted (maybe badly!), don’t worry. Just carry this ethos of taking a breath with you from now.

Consider your own feelings

When someone rejects us – whether that’s from a job, a friendship group or a marriage – it hurts.  When a spouse wants a divorce, even if we know deep down it’s for the best, it’s still painful. We might feel all sorts of indignation, outrage, unfairness. And that’s entirely natural. You won’t be able to make those feelings go away.

But I want you to look deeper too. Imagine you’re not feeling hurt. What are your own feelings about your marriage? Has it felt healthy and happy to you recently? Have you felt good about yourself and your relationship?

When my clients ask themselves these questions they often see that things aren’t right in the marriage. Perhaps you’ve settled into a sort of grey monotonous rut. Or maybe have normalised unfair behaviour (one or other of you mentally ‘checking out’ of your relationship or family, maybe). Or maybe there are more obvious signs. But, 99% of the time it’s clear that things aren’t as healthy as they ideally should be. 

So, try this for yourself. If I asked you about your marriage the day before your partner told you they wanted a divorce what would you say? What do you really want from a marriage? And are you getting it right now? 

Remember your self worth

Most of us base our self-esteem on how others rate us. ‘Am I a good wife/parent/employee/friend’? 

It’s good to think about the impact we have on others and to treat those around us with kindness and empathy, of course. But it becomes dangerous if we trust other people’s opinions of ourselves above our own.

Your self worth does not depend on what your partner thinks of you, or anyone else for that matter. Your self-esteem might be on the floor because of this news. If that’s the case, know that’s a normal reaction. But you don’t have to feel like that forever. 

Your self worth does not depend on your marriage, or your partner’s view of you. You are worthy simply by being here. And there is so much more to you than the role of wife/spouse. You had a life before you were married. If you get divorced you will continue to have a life. 

So as you navigate the early days of finding out your partner wants a divorce, treat yourself kindly. And seek out the loving, non-judgemental friends and family who will support you. 

Take it slowly

Just because they’ve asked for a divorce doesn’t mean it’s a done deal now. There’s a long way to go yet. Over the coming days and weeks you’ll want to understand:

  • Why they want to divorce
  • Whether they feel the marriage could be saved
  • What they want for the future
  • How you feel about it
  • What you want for the future

It might be that this is the start of a conversation that heals your marriage. Sometimes you need to reach rock bottom to rebuild. Or it might be that this is the start of something new and that divorce is your future. 

Either way, unless you are unsafe you do not need to rush things. However much pressure your partner puts on you. Don’t move out, or make any big decisions about money, children pets or joint assets right now. Take your time. 

I highly recommend mediation, whether you hope to reconcile or not. Mediation can help you keep communication amicable and productive. All too often heated emotions (understandably) cloud judgements. This means separations become a lot more expensive and unpleasant than they need to be. A trained mediator can help you keep the heat out of your conversations so you can both look to the future more clearly. 

So, unless you are in a high conflict situation (and if you are, read this), try and get your spouse to agree to family mediation so you can work towards your futures calmly. 

Choose the people who will support you

Think about the friends and family who will lift you up right now. Think about what you need. You’ve had a shock so you will need looking after. And you also need people who have your best interests at heart. Are there people who can:

  • Offer practical help – with food or childcare
  • Listen without judgement (or uninformed advice!)
  • Make you laugh and remind you that you are more than your marriage?

Seek these people out. Tell them you need then in your life right now. They will not mind. They’ll be happy to help you.

Get Divorce Ready

If divorce is on the cards, you need to take control of the reins. I don’t mean take control of both of you and take over. I mean you need to take charge of your own future. 

If your partner wants a divorce, you can’t be responsible for their thoughts, feelings or actions. You can, of course, still care about them. They don’t need to turn into public enemy number one. But you are now responsible for you, not them. 

What you need is to Get Divorce Ready. 

Get Divorce Ready is my self-study course that takes you through every single step to get prepared for divorce, mentally, emotionally and practically. Get Divorce Ready doesn’t just tell you what to do, it shows you how, with workbooks and exercises so it’s all mapped out for you. Divorce is stressful, definitely. But you can dial the stress right down if you know what to do and when. 

Get Divorce Ready is available to everyone who joins The Absolute Academy, a private community of women who want support to make smart decisions in their divorce. And in April I’m facilitating it live too – so I’ll walk alongside you as you go. 

For a monthly fee that’s less than most solicitors charge per hour you can get confident, and even excited, about what the future holds. You’ll meet a whole community of women who have your back, you’ll have me answering questions and cheering you on, and you’ll have the plan you need. 

So your spouse wants a divorce. You’ve got this. You can have the courage, confidence and know-how you need to get through it, and into a better future.

Find out more and join The Absolute Academy here.

About Emma

Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is the author of the Amazon best selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self-study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. Emma is also the host of  The Six Minute Divorce Podcast. To find out more visit


  1. sharon kilsby

    What experience do you have for someone who has ended a marriage because their husband has been lying to them all their marriage about his sexuality when finally ended relationship he left without closure as he was caught cheating by looking at male porn (basically he is gay and is in the closet so abused me phycologically and emotionally to keep me and hide it) he has caused me so much pain since leaving by cohesion of kids and not paying what he should and taking control of maintenance and ending my work with his company, I’ve started divorce as got legal aid but my solicitors don fill me with support or make me feel they are going to try to help me keep the house (I’m dosabled) hes admitted to getting friends to stalk my social media which has had a awful effect on my mental health.

    • Emma Heptonstall

      Hi Sharon, well done on taking control of your own life and deciding that you do not want your marriage to continue because of the betrayal. You are never in control of what your husband does or doesn’t do. It’s sad that he couldn’t discuss his sexuality with you and chose to hide it but that’s on him, not you. I don’t know your financial circumstances so I can’t comment on whether or not it’s going to be possible for you to stay in your home but the s25 factors include your children and your own health and ability to work now and in the future. Speak with your solicitor about your concerns. Just because you are on legal aid, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t entitled to an explanation of their thoughts and to understand the process. Read my blogs and boo for more or join ladies who leave Facebook group so you can begin to understand more about the divorce process.


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